Europe Split on Nord Stream 2 Pipeline as US Warns Against
Dependence on Russian Gas
March 08, 2018
A number of eastern European states have ramped up their
opposition to a new gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany.
The Nord Stream 2 project will bring Russian gas directly to
Western Europe, but critics say it will increase dependence on
Russia and enrich its state-owned energy firms, at a time when
Moscow stands accused of undermining European security.
The $11 billion, 1,225-kilometer pipeline is on schedule for
completion next year. It is a private project backed by Russian
state-owned Gazprom and five energy companies from Germany,
France, Britain and the Netherlands. It also has the strong
backing of the German and Russian governments.
“We support the implementation of this project which is
undoubtedly, absolutely free from politics. This is a purely
economic and moreover purely commercial project,” Russian
President Vladimir Putin told reporters after meeting the
Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, last week in Moscow. Kurz
also offered his support for the project.
Doing business with Putin
Many eastern states, however, say Europe should not be engaged
in big business with President Putin. Some of the most vocal
critics have been the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania, whose foreign ministers traveled to Washington last
week to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Security these days is increasingly indivisible. There’s no
clear division between internal and external security and also
geographically,” Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser told
reporters in Washington ahead of the meeting.
The United States is opposed to Nord Stream 2, having sanctioned
Russian companies over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, along with
foreign companies involved in Russian energy exploration. So
far, those sanctions don’t affect the new pipeline.
The European Commission also opposes the project but says there
are no legal grounds to prevent the private investment from
Opponents fear any additional revenues for Russia from Nord
Stream 2 would soften the impact of sanctions. Many Eastern
European states also question whether the new pipeline will
benefit them economically, says Noah Gordon, analyst at the
Center for European Reform, a London-based research group.
“There could be bottlenecks through central Europe and Eastern
Europe, and those places could see prices rise and they might be
more exposed to a Russian political gas cutoff. Ukraine would
lose about $2 billion a year in transit fees.”
Currently, more than half of Russian gas exports to Europe are
routed through Ukraine. Supporters of Nord Stream 2 say it would
increase security of supply, citing recent price disputes
between Moscow and Kyiv.
The EU hopes to mitigate the risk of increased dependence on
Russia by investing in connecting pipelines across European
goal is a resilient gas market where gas flows freely across
borders,” Gordon said. “For two years, Ukraine hasn’t bought any
gas from Russia. Instead they buy gas, Russian gas usually,
indirectly from European traders like Germany, like the Dutch.
So if the European gas market was in a strong enough state and
if Europe was more energy efficient and used less gas, Russian
or otherwise, Russia wouldn’t be able to meddle or use gas as a
weapon ever again.”
Poland and Lithuania, which vehemently oppose Nord Stream 2,
have built terminals for liquefied natural gas, or LNG. The
United States wants to boost its LNG exports to Europe.
Both Europe and the U.S. hope that a diversified supply will
help reduce Russia’s ability to use gas as a political weapon.